Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Just bring 'em to the font...

We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.(Acts 10:39-40, NIV)
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues[a] and praising God.

Then Peter said, "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
(Acts 10:44-48a, NIV)

Sunday's lectionary reading from the book of Acts describes a flat impossibility. Couldn't have happened. Outside the realm of possibility.

You see, for centuries "the circumcised" - the Jews - understood themselves to be *the* people of God. And that understanding came by right of birth, from father to son. There was no way God's Spirit could move in those who were not "of the people of God."

Except, of course, that it happened.

Peter is preaching after Jesus' resurrection, and is in the midst of telling the crowd that "we are witnessses of everything [Jesus] did..." He's not even finished talking when the Holy Spirit decides to show up in power. And the ones who end up speaking in tongues are the ones who theoretically are "outside the pale" - those unclean non-Jews, the Gentiles. But it sure looks like God's power is on them...

Peter's not going to put up a fight. He says, "Hey, go ahead - anybody who can think of a good reason why these outsiders should be baptised, speak now!" Then he orders them baptized, even though they are not part of the historic "people of God." The Spirit is moving in them, and for Peter, that's enough.

Fourteen years ago, a pastor in Prairie Village, Kansas took the same chance with me. Outwardly, there wasn't much to work with: I hadn't been to church in 17 years, and I'd never been part of the Lutheran tradition. I was newly divorced and very angry, recently sober and not entirely stable, and given to frequent and impressive bouts of vulgarity, I was (as one friend put it later) "quite a piece of work." But that pastor saw something happening behind the exterior roughness, and trusted that it was the Holy Spirit. Some might look back, even now, and wonder at his choice...but despite everything, I think he was right.

Now, I have to admit: I understand why some churches today take seekers and put them through extensive training and classes before baptism. They see the decision to be baptised as a momentous decision, not to be taken lightly. They also see these classes as ensuring that people who join the Church are in full agreement with the statements of faith.

But I wonder if sometimes we take this "decision time" too seriously. I wonder if the question we have to ask, just as Peter did, is simply: is the Spirit moving in a person? Are there fruits of the Spirit present, or hiding just under a rough surface? If so, then maybe we don't need to wait for six months of classes. Maybe we simply need to ask, "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water?"

Lord God, help us to see when your Spirit is moving in those around us. Help us to see where you are moving, and welcome those persons into the family of God. Amen.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Lake Delton evening

I have a kitty-cat rubbing her head on my toes, and purring.

In case you're wondering, this is a good thing.

It is still, and peaceful, and quiet. You can hear the wind in the trees...and not a lot else. Even the wind seems to whisper, "All is quiet..."

In case you're wondering, this is a wonderful thing.

Especially for a boy on the south side of Chicago, where communter trains and freight trains and highway traffic noise is a part of life at any hour of the day or night. It ain't heaven, but it's close.

I met up at noon with my good friends (and bloggers-on-hiatus) Tom and Michael, who have been my friends and confindants ever since I came to Hyde Park nearly 3 years ago. Tom retired back in December, and has built his retirement home on his ancestral farm in the Wisconsin Dells. After two months of trips back & forth, today was their final load-out - a large-ish dresser, a large and cumbersome sofa, and a couple hundred bits of "stuff that didn't fit in other boxes." So I helped them clean-out the last of their stuff (remembering the 80/20 rule: eighty percent of the stuff takes 80% of the time, and the last twenty percent...also takes 80% of the time).

But they got started only an hour later than they planned (by comparison, we just won't talk how late I was during my last move...), and we had a delightful drive up to the Dells. Tom led the way in his red GMC Canyon truck, with Michael driving the blue-n-white Budget rent-a-truck, and me in the rear with the elderly Camry filled with boxes.

The drive is about 190 miles. The first 24 miles (from Hyde Park to the O'Hare toll plaza) took an hour and a quarter. (It's drives like that which make me ready to pack my stuff and go anywhere away from a big city.) But the rest of the drive was a delight. Total elapsed time - 4 hours 30 minutes...not too bad, especially with the iPod to supply the movin-right-along music. I debated whether the lead-off song should be "The Great Adventure" or "Up, Up & Away," but in the end the 5th Dimension won out...

Once we got here, Tom treated us to dinner at a delightful little Italian restaurant called "R Place." We had delightful meals - my salmon was wonderful - and great fellowship. We then drove back to the house, and unloaded the truck into the garage (it took about an hour and a half to load it, and about 15 minutes to unload it, it seemed!). Then Tom regaled me with scenes from "RFD TV" - more country music and agricultural reporting than any city boy would ever need - and generally wound down the day.

Sunday will be a busy day - I will leave the Dells about 7:00, head down to a funraiser brunch for the Center on Halstead, which The Employer is proud to support. Then meet up with a sponsee for coffee, a meeting, and then out to to Oak Brook (a Chicago suburb) for a concert including Ken Medema. All in all, it should be the incredible wrap up to a great weekend.

It turns out that (just as a "what the heck" moment) I checked Ken Medema's schedule, and he was doing not one, but two performances in Chicago this weekend. He's doing a concert tonight, and worship tomorrow, at a Baptist church on the north side of Chicago. And then Sunday night he's doing a concert at a church in Oak Brook. I can hardly wait...if you haven't heard of Ken Medema, you'll be amazed if you ever get to see him.

So here I am, reflecting on a full and wonderful day. My kitty-cat friend (not sure whether this is Cassidy or Sundance) is now sitting next to the PC monitor, purring away and occasionally kneading the mouse and the keyboard (which has led to some interesting typos...). So I think it's time to head off to beddy-bye-land. Five thirty is gonna come really early...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Stepping away from the "great debate"

Over here at Paradoxy, there is a fairly positive discussion of the infamous Levitical texts related to homosexuality. And part of me really wants to weigh in on that discussion, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. It's not that I don't think people should speak to these passages. It's just that I've grown a wee bit tired of discussing the same six or seven texts (depending on whose list you use), and whether and how they are meant to exclude gays and lesbians from heaven.

Part of the reason I've tired of the debate is because the religious right insist on cherry-picking the Biblical commandments they want to enforce. It's the same old discussion - which parts of the Holiness Code are you going to enforce? (In fact, I need to post that wonderful list of the 10 questions about the holiness code we should all ask the religious right...I'll do that in this post immediately below.)

Another part of the reason I don't want to ante up to the discussion is that in the end, it's mostly futile. First, homophobia is a phobia - by definition, it's an irrational fear. One of the wisest things I've heard about combating homophobia since I've been out is this gay truism: You will never be able to logically or rationally argue someone out of a belief or fear that is, by definition, illogical and irrational. A war of words won't transform 99.44% of anti-gay forces, because they aren't responding to words, they're responding to fears and boogeymen.

But even more important is this truth: in the end, both the homo-haters and the homo-supporters appeal to different parts of the same book to justify their attitudes. This is at the heart of a short but extremely useful book by one of the few sane ELCA voices in this discussion: Craig Nessan's Many Members, One Body: Committed Same-Gender Relationships and the Mission of the Church. Nessan is a pastor and theologian at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, IA, and he wrote this book (at least in part) to help inform the discussions concerning homosexuality and same-sex ordination at the ELCA national assembly in 2005 (and beyond, since nothing was decided in 2005...)

Nessan suggests that the Old Testament writers had no knowledge of sexual orientation, versus sexual preference - any more than they understood astrophysics when they wrote that the earth was the center of the universe. So the concept of a created, inborn desire for the same sex was impossible for Biblical writers to understand. And the concept of committed same-sex relationships was an impossibility in a world where property and the social order depended on siring male heirs.

You see, I will agree with Levitical writers and with Paul - from a "survival of the people of God" standpoint, hetero men jumping the tracks and having sex with men, back then, was a bad idea - for the same reason that risking eating improperly cooked pork was a bad idea. The "people of God" weren't gonna last long that way.

But what the religious right refuse to acknowledge is the fact that for a number of men and women, they have not "exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones" (Romans 1:26) because they never had those "natural" desires to begin with. Those men and women never "abandoned natural relations" with the opposite sex - for them, those desires were simply absent, from the beginning.

Trying to enforce those rules on homosexuals today makes no more sense than having church officials persecuting NASA employees for saying the earth revolves around the sun. We simply know better, now. And the conditions that threatened the survival of the nomadic tribes of Israel simply no longer apply.

The trouble, Nessan says, is that both sides of the debate are appealing to different parts of the Bible, and both hold the Bible in esteem (though certainly to different standards), what you have is two mutually-exclusive hermaneutics - two completely irreconcilable ways of understanding the Bible and "those passages" in particular. And so both sides stand on either side of the Biblical chasm, shouting at the other side, who could care less about what's being said.

Nessan suggests that that at the level of "love God, and love your neighbors," both sides are essentially "one body, with many members." He makes the pitch that, if we aren't going to split the church over caring for the poor, and we aren't going to split the church over abortion, just war, divorce, hospitality to strangers and/or any of a hundred other topics that Jesus felt were more central to following him, then why should we even consider splitting the Body of Christ over homosexuality? Why can't we simply agree to disagree, as we have with these other topics? Why aren't we spending our time pointing people to Jesus, rather than focusing on this relatively small segment of the population?

Unfortunately, once again, this is a rational approach to an irrational fear. And the religious right has built up those irrational fears through outright lies and half-truths, turning gay men into predatory monsters bent on overthrowing the social order of straight Christianity. They need an enemy, and they've targeted gays and lesbians as the focus of their ire.

So I'll encourage my friends to carry on the discussion - when they find the occasional Christian who really want to hear facts an understand, rather than just shout at the "homos" and "fags." For me, I will sign up with the author of this great quote:
The Church says that the Earth is flat. But I know that it is round, because I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the Church. (Robert Green Ingersoll, erroneously attributed to Ferdinand Magellan)

Ten questions for the Religious Right

1) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

2) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4) Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

5) I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

6) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. (After all, have you seen what whole shellfish look like?) Can you settle this?

7) Lev 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

8) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev 19:27. How should they die?

9) I know from Lev 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev 24:10-16) Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Here's a way to honk off the Religious Right....

Plan a screening of Camp Out.

It asks the question that the so-called Religious Right just don't want to hear: can you be gay and Christian? And, even better (or worse, depending on which side you're on): can you be a gay Christian teenager?

This is no work of fiction: this is a documentary of 10 gay/lesbian teenagers who attend a camp run by a maverick gay pastor in the ELCA and his partner (by itself, a big no-no in the ELCA...bad pastor...). Not just any camp, mind you, but a camp specifically for gay Christian teens. The plot summary says the pastor and his partner started this camp because they were tired of hearing about gay kids killing themselves because they believed they were going to hell.

Yup - those Religious Righters probably need to stomp on THAT ministry as quickly as possible (although I suspect their more liberal ELCA brothers will do it for them). After all, we don't want any of that good-news crap getting out to the queers, now do we?...

In fact, in one of the review of the screenings at various film festivals, it describes a scene where one of the teens asks the tragic question: "What if they're right? What if we are going to hell?"

Of course, the answer that conservative Christians don't want you to hear is, of course, that everyone is going to hell - absent the saving power of Christ. Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling (the Enron execs), the addict living in the alley, the ACT UP! gay activists, and all ten of the teens in this movie are all damned - absent faith in Jesus.

I'll be interested to see if this movie makes it to any of the film festivals here in Chicago this summer and fall...if it does, I'll be near the head of the line to support it...

Monday, May 15, 2006

An old acquaintance gets a boost

At my Saturday morning AA meeting, it's an interesting group of (mostly younger) men who attend. There are playrights; artists in paints, wood, metals, and other media; musicians from rock guitarists to jazz pianists; at least two legitimate stand-up comics; and a variety of other talented folks.

One fellow is a cinematographer - a video/film cameraman. He's been all over the world, seen all kinds of things with all kinds of people. Some of his footage was on the Chicago news recently, and he spent an evening last week hobnobbing with Conan O'Brien. And I remember the insecure little-boy voice inside me saying, "Gee...I wish I could say I know famous folks, like these guys do..."

Tonight, I found out that I know a guy whose knowledge and skill just might save the world.

My friend Eric's college roommate was Rick Bright. Eric and Rick were great friends even after they left the University of Kansas, and Rick went on to other graduate studies.

My connection with Rick was meeting him by email in the summer of 1999. Rick had been born with a sunken chest (where the bone that joins the ribs up front actually grows inward), and in the middle of 1999 it had grown inward so much that Rick was having trouble breathing, walking, anything that required much in the way of oxygen. In a very short period of time, his condition degenerated to the point where he was passing out at the grocery store, or unable to walk up flights of stairs.

That's when I "met" Rick, by email. Our church had been doing daily email devotions, and Eric and I were pretty much the mainstays of that effort at first. Eric had evidently forwarded some of my stuff to Rick, and Rick seemed to enjoy it. So we started up a conversation - about his condition, both physical and spiritual.

Rick was trying to get a specific type of surgery done that would undo this damage, and the place to have it done, at the time, was the UCLA medical center. But (of course) he got tied up in a battle with his health-insurance company about whether they would cover this life-givng exercise. (They, of course, wanted some half-vast hack to do something locally). So the battle was on...

Rick was also struggling with the Christian faith, and the Christian church, on a number of levels. So our emails were about half physiology, and half theology. Rick eventually had the surgery, charging the cost of it on his credit cards, and actually came out to Kansas to stay with Eric's folks while he recovered.

At the time, Rick was working on his 3rd or 4th degree, a doctorate in Immunology and Molecular and Viral Pathogenesis (say that one three times fast), and was working on research at Emory University and at the Centers for Disease Control. I always knew he was bright, beyond just the name...

So in talking with Eric yesterday, he'd heard from Rick shortly after Eric's dad's funeral in March. Turns out Rick Bright has a new job at Novavax as Vice President of Vaccine Research. He'll be leading efforts to develop a vaccine for the H5N1 avian flu, which many experts expect will make the mutating jump from birds to humans in a few short years. And if his work so far is any indication, he's the man to do it. Two months after getting hired at Novavax, he was addressing the World Health Organization. Eric said he spends most of his time jetting around the world to wherever outbreaks of avian flu are occurring. His work, if it's as successful as some folks think, could well put him on the path of a Nobel Prize...

Oh, and his health problems? The 32-year-old guy who couldn't get to the grocery store without passing out in 1999 has participated in a number of bicycle marathons, including a 400-mile bike ride across Canada to raise funds for AIDS research. His management-team picture sure looks like he's in great shape! (Ricks's photo is here, at the bottom of the list.)

So it seems I have a famous connection after all. I doubt I'll be slowing him down long enough to have coffee, but it's good to see a happy ending to a story, once in a while.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Being restored to sanity - sorta

When you see some mud upon the ground
You lay down so she don't have to walk around
You think that will protect her from the rain
But she'll never, ever stop the pain

She walks all over you (she knows she can)
You're the carpet man, yeah, yeah
You're the carpet man...

("Carpet Man," from Up, Up & Away: The Definitive Collection by The Fifth Dimension)
Well, it's been an interesting week here on the south side of Chicago. Opportunities for growth, some of which have been accepted gladly, and some of which I have definitely backslid from. The song snippet from the Fifth Dimension leads us into the first topic..

Something in me broke (at least temporarily) last week concerning my work. I'd spent the last weekend bouncing between resentment and resignation about the hours, about my new boss, about what I felt was expected of me (cheerful martyrdom) versus what I was willing to commit to (snarking, resentful sloth, basically). I kept trying to get to the "we have ceased fighting anything or anyone" AA-standard for serenity, but it just didn't work.

Finally, I had a sort of epiphany. I realized that for the foreseeable future, the broken business model established by my employer means that Monday and Tuesday nights are going to be insane. Period. That part, at least, was undeniable.

Every Monday is going to last until about 8 PM, without fail. And every other Tuesday night is pretty much guaranteed to go to 2-3 AM on Wednesday. Since we have no shift workers, that means an 18 hour day (yes, since we're salaried, that means 10 hours of unpaid overtime). And there's nothing on the horizon that's going to spare us from that. So the breaking-point I came to simply said:
OK, that's fine. Mondays and Tuesdays are write-off's. Period. I can accept that.
But that's all the bastards get. Wednesday through Friday, and the weekends, are mine
Now, I have no idea whether my new boss will accept that or not. But I have to admit that there is a part of me that really doesn't care, one way or the other. That's all I've got to give for what they're offering. If they wanted to make us hourly and overtime-eligible, that might be different. But not for flat salary. Sorry.

So as a French writer once said, les jeux sont faites - the die are cast. We'll see how the game plays out this week. "Hell week" starts in just over 12 minutes...

I started walking to and from the train this last week. A couple times, I had to drive, because of medical appointments on the south side. But I'm going to get more serious about it this week. I only "have to" drive one day this week - with a visit to a specialist on Tuesday and Hell Night Tuesday night. So the rest of the week should be good. I desperately, desperately need the exercise. Now if I can just get my ass out of bed in time to make it...

I'm finding a real spirit-healing reading The Wounded Prophet: A portrait of Henri J.M. Nouwen by Michael Ford. As I read it, I find that Nouwen was so much like me as to be uncanny. He lived a life of celibacy (at 12 years, I only feel like it's been a lifetime), and both of us struggled mightily with the desire for intimate contact throughout it. Though I would never compare my meagre speaking or preaching to his, we both had many others tell us of our writing and speaking skills, and how they touched others.

And I identify with Henri's simultaneous desire for humility, side-by-side with a need to be the center of attention. But most of all, I understand the drive to share spirituality out of my sense of brokenness, from my sense of not-quite-measuring-up, rather than from a sure and certain knowledge that "I've got the answer for you." Perhaps that gift - the understanding of being "the wounded healer" - is the greatest gift that Nouwen ever gave me. When I first heard of it in Don Messer's Contemporary Images of Christian Ministry, I knew I had found my vocatio, my calling.

So that's been pretty cool. The niggling annoyance is that the paperback version of the book (which I got fairly cheap) is now falling apart - the first 15 pages dropped out while I was reading it yesterday. (Amazon to the rescue - I found a used/very-good hardcover edition for not that much money to replace it.)

I'd been told by my GP physician that I needed to redo the sleep-apnea study I did 3 years ago - that it may well be my overnight oxygen levels that are causing my lack of energy and listlessness. Of course, in classic fashion, I was wait-listed with a date of August 4th. But last Thursday, I got the call - there's been a cancellation, it's short notice, but could I come in tonight? You bet I could.

That brought both good news and bad news - yes, additional CPAP pressure will help restore some vigor. But the other news is that my weight is apparently causing most of my apnea events - which means that added to all the other good reasons to start the walking is the fact that my sleep problems are at least partly tied to my obesity. As my sponsor said, "So...have you had enough yet?"

I continue to find hidden gems in my music collection as I digitize it. My post about the "up to your ass in brass" classical CD brought a message from a friend in KC who is a brass lover, which was cool.

I am looking for interests to pursue beyond just work and AA (yes, I know, I need to put blogging back into the mix!), but one of the blessings of being in Chicago is the Old Town School of Folk Music. You may find it hard to believe (I do, at 49,) but I'm actually thinking of taking a guitar class there. Gotta do something with my soon-to-be-free time, eh? (Now if I can just convince my friend Tom to loan me his spare guitar...)

Ok, that's it - gotta get to bed...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Blessings of new gifts, rediscovering old ones

Well, it has been a series of "opportunites for growth" here in the ol' Windy City. Lots of challenges, and a few changes for the better...

I'm not even going to bother talking about work. Suffice it to say that nothing has changed in the last two weeks, and my only change has been to accept that Monday and Tuesday nights are going to be insane; but I'm reclaiming Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Which, in the greater scheme of things, is progress...

In a spate of blatant self-gratification and commercialism, I broke down and bought myself five new things:

- I had to get crowns for two crumbling teeth (not much of an option, unfortunately, as both teeth had cracked - thank God for health spending accounts);
- I finally got a desperately-needed brand-new mattress and box-spring set;
- I finally broke down and got a new ground-line phone (I'd been living by cell-phone alone for 8 months); and
- I joined the 21st century gadgeteers, and got myself an iPod as a belated birthday present.

And no, I probably couldn't afford any of it. But that's the way it goes, sometimes.

The dentist thing was a tough one - most days, given the choice between a gasoline enema and a root-canal, I'd have to sit and think about it. But, as I said, when half of one tooth breaks off, and the other one shows up cracked, there isn't any choice about "just letting it slide."

The bed was probably more money than I should have spent - but I've spent going on 4 years trying to make my SelectDisComfort adjustable-agony bed work right, and it's just never worked out. The space between the two twin air-chambers always ended up being a hollow-spot, like the old joke about the "honeymoon" mattress (where both parties roll to the center) - no matter how hard or soft I inflated it. And I got to the point where the last month, I've woke up lame from a sore back. And let me tell you, not having that is worth every penny I paid for the new mattress set...

Getting set up with a "ground-line" phone may be a $25-a-month extravagance that I'll regret, but I don't think so. God knows, my schedule has not allowed me to be doing much phone calling - but when I do get the chance to call folks, the last thing I want to do is be having lousy reception or dropped calls (which this neighborhood "in the 'hood" is known for, regardless of carrier). So that seems to be a worthwhile thing, so far (of course, it's only been in since Friday...).

But the iPod...man, I'm still wondering why I held out so long.

I've always been a music freak, with widely divergent tastes. From Up, Up & Away: The Definitive Collection by the 5th Dimension, to Copland Conducts Copland including two of my favorite classical pieces, Hoedown and Fanfare for the Common Man, to Nickel Creek and Triumph and Jethro Tull and The White Album, it's pretty amazing.

I have a CD entitled Sonic Fireworks for Brass, featuring some of the most powerful classical brass music by the brass sections of several major orchestras. The back cover of the CBS Masterworks CD features a handwritten sign that shows the alternative subtitle for the CD, Up to Your Ass In Brass.) Not far away from it is The Carl Stalling Project: Music from the Warner Bros. Cartoons, 1936-1958 (an absolutely classic CD that, like Music From The Neighborhood, I heard about first on NPR). In the mix is El Debarge, Blood Sweat & Tears, a mess of Peter, Paul & Mary, Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie...it's amazing. And that doesn't even begin to describe the Christian music collection that's worked in thrugh that.

One of the amazing things I rediscovered a while back was a group called Prelude. You wouldn't recognize the name - they were mostly a UK group. But back in 1974, they performed an amazing acapella cover of Neil Young's After the Gold Rush. If you go to Amazon's site here, and click on the After The Gold Rush link, you can hear a bit of it.

For years, I had been searching for this recording...I had thought it was an all-women's group that did it, which threw me off the track. But thanks to the Internet, I found the name of the group, and then found the CD on Amazon. Very, very cool stuff...This version of After The Gold Rush came out when I was a junior in high school, at the height of the Watergate hearings (yes, that long ago), and I remember it being a slice of serenity in a time of insanity.

And then the storytellers - one classic of which is Patrick Stewart doing the narration for my favorite childhood recording, Peter and the Wolf. And then Bill Harley (Monsters in the Bathroom), Gamble Rogers' Sorry Is As Sorry Does, Heather Forest's SongSpinner...

Then the next challenge will be to digitize the pile of tapes I own, including about 2 dozen classic AA speaker's recordings.

I could have easily gotten a 360-gig iPod, if they made one - but for now, I think I can live with rotating things on and off the 30 GB one. But it's making driving, riding the train, even waiting in line at the grocery store so much more relaxing...

Today was also the first day of abandoning the bus to get into work. There's 5 blocks that I walk to take the Metra Electric line from 115th St. in to Van Buren station, but then there's a ten full city block journey to the office from the train. Up to this point, I've been taking the bus, especially in the morning - but yesterday I walked it back home. It cost me waiting forty minutes for the next hourly train - I can walk, but walk fast is something I'm going to have to grow into. But at least I was out and moving.

As a friend often said, the longest part of the journey is the part from the sofa to the front door... And I'm at the point of no longer having a choice about changing that part of my life.

So that's it, boys and girls. Off to another day in the capitalist's paradise...